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Launch abort confirms reliability of Soyuz emergency system — NASA astronaut Hague

Hague said the launch incident "only helped to solidify my appreciation for how robust that system is"
Soyuz capsule after emergency landing Southern Military District's press service/TASS
Soyuz capsule after emergency landing
© Southern Military District's press service/TASS

NEW YORK, October 16. /TASS/. The aborted launch of Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft has demonstrated the reliability of the rocket and the spacecraft’s emergency systems, NASA astronaut Nick Hague told reporters during a televised media conference on Thursday.

On October 11, Hague and his crewmate, Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, were scheduled to join the International Space Station’s crew, but their mission was aborted due to a malfunction in the booster of the Soyuz MS-10 rocket.

Starting from the 1960s there have been more than 160 unmanned and manned launches of the Soyuz spacecraft. The space rocket corporation Energia created the emergency rescue system in the 1960s alongside the manned Soyuz spacecraft.

Commenting on the reliability of Soyuz, Hague said the incident "only helped to solidify my appreciation for how robust that system is."

"There is a launch abort system that protects me continuously from about an hour before the launch until I’m in orbit. And at any moment in there that we could have a failure, it’s going to protect me," he said, describing the failed launch as "just a great example of those failsafe systems stepping in and doing the job."

He said he was totally sure that spacecraft of the Soyuz family can be used in the future to deliver ISS crew members to the orbital outpost.

"That [launch abort] system hadn’t been tested in 35 years, but we tested it last week, and it’s ready. And so that’s a testament to the commitment and the perseverance and the attention to details of the constructors, the workers - everybody that is involved with the Soyuz rocket and the Soyuz spacecraft. That’s a testament to them," the NASA astronaut went on. "It [the launch abort system] was still ready to go when that was needed, so I’m very thankful to all those people that invested to much in making sure that those failsafe systems are in place."

According to Hague, space exploration has always been a difficult and risky profession.

"I imagined that my first trip to the outer space was going to be a memorable one, but I did not expect it to be quite this memorable. But, yes, what we do is hard," he said. "What do we mean when we say ‘space is hard,’ ‘human exploration of space is hard’? There’s risk and we are doing our best to mitigate that risk, but there is always some risk there."

"The designers, the engineers, the people that built this spacecraft, they are constantly trying to build a perfect spacecraft, but it can’t be perfect all the time, so we have contingencies in place and we have other failsafe systems," he said. "I think that everybody realizes that what we do is difficult and that there’s risk involved. And it’s important to understand that it is worth the risk. What we are doing up there at the space station, what we are doing for human exploration, it’s for the benefit of all and it’s important that we continue to make those steps," the astronaut added.

When asked if he was prepared for another space mission, the astronaut replied: "absolutely, I’m ready to fly."

"I feel great now, and when NASA wants me to fly, I’m ready to go," he said, adding that he had no clue on when his flight to the ISS may take place.

"Those decisions are pretty complicated. I just let them know that I’m feeling great and I’m ready to go," he said.

A Soyuz-FG carrier rocket with a manned Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft blasted off from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur space center to the International Space Station (ISS) last Thursday, at 11:40 a.m. Moscow time. Following a smooth liftoff, the Soyuz’s booster malfunctioned between the first and second stages of separating, whereupon the crew was forced to abort the flight and switch to ballistic descent. The manned Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft ended up landing in the Kazakh steppe.

Shortly after, rescuers recovered the crew from the descent capsule. Later, the crewmembers were examined and found to be in good condition. After their medical check-up in the town of Baikonur, the astronauts were transported to Moscow. Hague returned to Moscow from Baikonur on October 12 and flew to the United States on the following day.